What is the Snake Bird?

The official common name for the Snake Bird is the Anhinga. The word comes from Brazil’s native Tupi people. Other common names for the Snake Bird are Bec a Lancette (in reference to the shape of the bird’s beak), Water crow, Grecian Lady, Cormorant, and Black-bellied darter.

Where do Anhingas live?

The Anhinga is common in the southeastern United States, especially near the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. John James Audubon “never met with an individual fishing in salt water.” The Anhinga prefers lagoons, lakes, bayous, and rivers.

What do Anhingas eat?

The Anhinga does not plunge or perform high dives into the water for prey in the same manner as the Osprey, the Brown pelican, terns, and others. The bird lands on the water, paddles about, dives without making nary a ripple, propels through the water with its webbed feet, and darts after “fishes of various kinds, aquatic insects, crays, leeches, shrimps, tadpoles, eggs of frogs, water-lizards, young alligators, water-snakes, and small terrapins.”

After a half minute or so, the Anhinga emerges twenty or thirty yards, sometimes further, from where it dove. Normally the bird shows only its head and long neck. The bird often holds its neck in a curve which makes it look like a snake. On occasion, the bird’s food appears on its sharp beak until the bird gives its head an upward jerk which sends the food flipping through the air which the Anhinga then catches and swallows. Otherwise, the bird vanishes below the water to continue its search for food. The Anhinga is unable to fly again until it finds a perch close to the water on which it will stay until its wings are dry.